This post is by Georgina Collins of Hope for the Future
The significance of the UN conference COP26 cannot be underestimated; this is the deadline for countries to update their climate plans and set out their Nationally Determined Contributions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement (where 195 countries agreed to limit global warming to 2°C, and a greater ambition to pursue limiting warming to 1.5°C.
To the average person, it’s hard to relate the complex acronyms, abstract statistics and government squabbling that surround these summits back to the everyday issues in their lives. It is, however, essential that we do our best to make sure this connection is made. What will occur in Glasgow will affect everyone in communities globally. International political leadership will be integral to the process of rapidly decarbonising the global economy. And the far-reaching changes this will involve need to be managed fairly and democratically.
As the host of COP26 in Glasgow, along with Italy, the UK can showcase what is possible and set an example to the world. The stance and commitment of the UK government will be central to advancing the negotiations at COP26; as the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has noted, “a large part of the success of the Paris talks in 2015 reflected work put in prior to the conference”.
COP26 will be pivotal on a number of levels. Not only will UK leadership impact the outcome of COP26 and have implications on the international stage, it is also an opportunity to pioneer of low carbon innovation at home, backing up the UK’s 2050 net zero target with the credible pathways and policies to deliver it.
MPs’ support will help to make COP26 a success
MPs can help by using this year to advocate on a cross-party basis for further climate action both domestically and internationally. But this will only happen if every MP has supportive constituents, communicating this potential and collaborating with their MP at the local level. To elevate the national conversation in the run up to Glasgow, we need MPs to engage in the practicalities of what achieving the 2050 net zero target will mean for their local areas, such as the retrofitting of UK housing for energy efficiency, the electrification of travel infrastructure and changes to diet and land use.
But there is still work to do on this front. As recently as last month, we engaged with MPs who still did not know what COP26 was. A January 2020 YouGov survey found that 74 per cent of British adults were concerned about climate change. If these people understand the significance of COP they, in turn, can emphasise it to their local MPs. Otherwise, a perceived lack of public mandate will translate into a lack of political will, and, in this important year, opportunities for the UK will be missed.
People need to speak directly to their MPs
So how can we engage better with MPs on this? It will be crucial not to alienate them from the issues around climate change and nature. At Hope for the Future, we know from experience that MPs are not led into action by mass ‘fill in your MP’s name here’ emails. Rather than this one-way communication, we support human interaction and constructive dialogue. We are encouraging people to spend time building proper relationships with their local representatives, and helping MPs to understand and prepare for COP26.
And there’s a bigger opportunity for this since the last election. As I wrote in a previous blog, many of the large number of new MPs in the 2019 election intake (140 new members) are in marginal seats and are actively seeking to engage with their constituents on the issues that matter to them, to build relationships with their voters and establish themselves in parliament. Let’s use this as a route to firing up political support across the country to make COP26 a success.
Hope for the Future is looking for faith groups, schools, community groups and individuals, in all 650 constituencies, who are willing to meet with their MP about COP26 and discuss what they can do in a parliamentary capacity to support the success of the Glasgow summit. We are helping to secure the meetings with MPs and helping constituents to prepare and follow-up. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a resource guide and/or further support.